13 December 2017

Continue

Here's a story for you to continue...
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Once upon a time a beautiful couple were married in a beautiful church. After their beautiful honeymoon in a beautiful country faraway, they moved into a beautiful house on the edge of beautiful countryside.

They lived a beautiful life. He had a fantastic job - often jetting first class around the world and she was a beautician with her own thriving business. They made lots of friends and were very popular in the local community.

With the passage of time they had two beautiful children. The baby boy was called Adonis and the little girl was called Bella. They were both healthy, happy and clever – just like their beautiful parents.

The years continued to hurry by and the beautiful couple’s love for each other matured like a good French wine. They never argued and they were besotted by their beautiful offspring. Adonis achieved four A starred grades in his A levels and won a place at Cambridge. Bella was already studying medicine at University College London.

The beautiful couple felt truly blessed. Life could not have been better. All was so wonderful until….
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You can either write the next paragraph or provide a thumbnail sketch of where you see the story going.

12 December 2017

Woods

Less than two miles from this house there's an area of ancient woodland known as Ecclesall Woods. It covers 350 acres. Nothing has ever been built here apart from a couple of charcoal burners' huts but the woods have been "managed" since the middle ages.

I have walked there many times. It's very nice to see those woods in bluebell time which is usually in early May, But yesterday it was equally lovely to walk there as snow had turned the entire area into a winter wonderland.

Some people were out and about exercising their dogs. I said hello to one woman who had no less than seven dogs in tow and for some reason she replied with "Hello my love" but I couldn't remember any previous encounters with her so I was a little puzzled. Perhaps she says "Hello my love" to everyone she meets.

I snapped twenty photographs or more - trying to capture the essence of  such a beautiful winter's day. The picture at the top of this post was the best I could come up with. Those two faraway figures really make the composition in my view. Without them there would be no focus and no hint of a story. They also provide a sense of scale. Yes - I am pretty happy with that image.

11 December 2017

Wintertime

Beau and Peep
Last evening in "Blue Planet II", David Attenborough told us about the effects of global warming upon our oceans. However, here in South Yorkshire we appear to be suffering from global freezing. 

There's snow on the ground and the weather people have painted their map icy blue. Brrrrr! Last night I almost slipped on my arse as I walked down to the pub for a drink and a chat with Old Bert. He's eighty one and has a cheerful, upbeat attitude to life. He can remember wartime London quite vividly and also his two years of National Service in the mid-fifties. They sent him to a godforsaken army base at Warcup in Westmorland but he remembers that time with his usual cheeriness.
Apple hollowed out by blackbirds
This morning, the tarmacadam on our north-facing  road looks surprisingly clear and I can see that a gritting lorry must have spread salt on it in the middle of the night. In our back garden, blackbirds peck at the apples we have cut open for them. Meanwhile our pet sheep - Beau and Peep continue to shiver in the snow.

Yes folks. It's wintertime.  The sun is meant to burst forth in an hour or two to illuminate the whitened suburbs of this city so later on I might clear the snow from Clint's windows and drive over to Ecclesall Woods for a slippery walk and some wintry  photo snapping. We'll see.
Our house from the back garden

10 December 2017

Correspondence


Dear Charlotte,

I am writing with regard to an unpleasant discovery I made after returning from shopping at Waitrose last night. Namely - I had lost my wallet for the first time in my life. Panic stations set in. 

As my wife phoned Waitrose, I sped back to the store which had just closed. I searched the car park and trolley area to no avail and then a night worker at the staff door said he would ask inside the shop about the wallet. Two female workers came out to speak to me saying they had had a good look round but hadn't found it.

I went back home most anxious about the whereabouts of the wallet and associated inconvenience. Half an hour later, my wife's mobile phone rang. It was your night shift manager - Andy Beaver. He had found the wallet and if I returned to the shop he would hand it over. Apparently, he had spotted it on a side bench near the checkout area.

When I got back to the store, I attempted to give Andy a £10 note as a reward but he would not take it in spite of my insistence. I told him that I would be writing to you to sing his praises and to thank him for his honesty, kindness and prompt customer service.

Sometimes people might imagine that the world is filled with dishonest, self-seeking folk but it isn't. Most people are like Andy Beaver - decent, hard-working, kind and very willing to help others. Please pass on my sincere thanks to him.

Yours sincerely,
Yorkshire Pudding (Esquire)
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Hi Mr Pudding,

I just wanted to let you know that I have passed on these comments to Andy, his line manager and our branch manager.

Thank you again for your kind words, Andy was very touched.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Warm Regards,
Charlotte Sidebottom
(Deputy Branch Manager)

9 December 2017

Monyash

Yesterday morning I tied Clint up outside "The Bull's Head" in Monyash. Snow had fallen over night and the Derbyshire landscape had a wintry Christmas card look about it.

As I donned my trusty walking boots, it crossed my mind that later on I might treat myself to a drink and a bite to eat in "The Bull's Head" when I got back. I zipped up my Hull City manager's coat and rooted around in Clint's bottom for my thermal hat and fingerless gloves.

First of all I had a bit of a wander around the Peakland village after realising that I had never seen its old church. Unfortunately the building was locked but I took this picture of St Leonard's from its snowy churchyard:-
 And then as I headed for Fere Mere - the village pond, I came across this little track. Conveniently, sunlight was spotlighting the rather unique wooden street sign:-
It was time to set off out of the village, across snowy fields and over ancient limestone walls - up to a long moorland track called Hutmoor Butts that used to connect the long abandoned Hutmoor Butts lead mine to the old Roman Road that links Buxton with Ashbbourne.

It was a mile to the main road and the going was hard with small snowdrifts amassing in the lee of the limestone walls. In one field a bewildered herd of young bullocks stood shivering, wondering where their grass had gone.
Twenty minutes later I approached an old farm hidden in a hollow. Its name was quite magical - The Whim. And close to The Whim a small flock of sheep thought that I was a farmer bringing them a welcome bag of food supplement. Instead of running away from me they ran towards me till I felt like the pied piper of sheep, leading them across their snowy pasture. The bolder ewes attempted to nuzzle my thighs and I had the feeling that if I fell over in the snow I myself would become sheep food.
Two and a half hours after setting off I was back in Monyash. My boots were rejected in favour of shoes and I entered "The Bull's Head" where a log fire was roaring. Though it was now well past the end of food serving time, the landlady agreed to make me a sandwich and I also ordered a coffee. The sandwich seemed rather pricey at £6.75 but when it arrived I was delighted because it was accompanied by a substantial and tasty salad with potato crisps. 

I fell into conversation with a lone woman who had walked six miles from Bakewell and would be walking back as soon as she had finished her leisurely lunch. Co-incidentally, she told me that her grandparents had lived at The Whim and she remembered the harshness of their simple farming life there. No electricity. An open fire with a kitchen range. No running water and an outside toilet with a cesspit. She was grateful to have witnessed the tail end of that basic yet very contented lifestyle.
"The Bull's Head" in Monyash

8 December 2017

Graphology

WARNING: TRUMP SUPPORTERS ARE ADVISED TO IGNORE THIS POST AS HEIGHTENED BLOOD PRESSURE MAY BE INJURIOUS TO HEALTH.


Graphologists will confidently propose that how somebody writes their signature reveals a great deal about them. For instance, when I write my signature I do it neatly and humbly. I am not making any kind of statement. I am simply writing my name in a manner that other people will find recognisable. Any graphologist worth his or her salt could easily endorse that claim.

In contrast, Trump's signature has become a loud and proud expression of his arrogant character. It is far too big and as other commentators have suggested, it looks like a print off from the Richter scale during an earthquake. The first name, the middle initial and the surname all blend together in a somewhat threatening and aggressive declaration of personhood. 

It is a signature that lacks  compassion or kindness. It speaks of "Me! Me! Me!". Trump's very recent proposition - that the American Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem - underlines his egotistical approach to even the most delicate of political matters. There are many great thinkers who have studied the middle eastern tensions for years but Trump knows best and he wants his inflated, exaggerated signature to underline that pomposity. You'd better believe it buddy!

In contrast, here's the great Abraham Lincoln's signature - easy to read, discreet, kindly and certainly not seeking to make any kind of boastful declaration of power:-

7 December 2017

Panic

It was when I was driving homewards from our local Waitrose store that I discovered my wallet was missing. Sitting at a red light, I felt my trouser pockets and the pockets of my fleece jacket but the familiar shape simply was not there. 

I pulled into the block-paved area in front of our house and searched the car's hidden recesses. Then I checked the shopping bags in the boot (American: trunk) but alas the wallet was not there either. Oh - woe was me!

Inside our house, I deposited the shopping and nervously informed her ladyship. Naturally, she went into a frenzied rage, calling me all the names under the sun, comparing my intelligence to that of an earthworm. In reality, she calmly phoned up Waitrose as I jumped back in the car.

The store closed at 9pm so when I got back there it was all locked up. However, I managed to collar a night shift worker and just as he was about to make enquiries about the wallet, two women employees came out to see me. They had responded to her ladyship's phone call by searching hither and thither but had seen no sign of the lost item.

I drove home again wondering what the hell had happened to my wallet and how on earth I could have mislaid it. It is the first time in my life I have ever lost a wallet though I once had one stolen from me by a prostitute  in a bar in Lautoka, Fiji.

For most men, a wallet is more or less part of his anatomy. In the modern world it is a vital aid to existence. Without it you feel ill-prepared for life's daily challenges. Mine contained my debit card, credit card, driving licence, fifty pounds in cash, a new National Lottery ticket worth £64 (8 weeks), several names, addresses and phone numbers that I don't have anywhere else and some small irreplaceable family photos.
The Findig Shop in the MBK Mall, Bangkok
This is where I bought my wallet
Returning home, I wondered where my "Findig" wallet might be. I bought it in Bangkok in 2011. I wondered if a thief or ne'er-do-well might have it  but alternatively I knew it was very possible that an honest citizen might have spotted it and I would get it back.

Back in the house, her ladyship insisted that I should cancel my bank cards. And I did this ten minutes before her mobile phone rang. It was the manager of the night shift team at Waitrose. He had found the wallet. It seemed rather biblical - like the story of the prodigal son in Luke. He was lost but is found again.

For the third time yesterday evening, I headed back to Waitrose. At the night staff door, I waited for the night manager as agreed. He came out with my wallet. I expressed my gratitude and attempted to give him a monetary reward but he just would not accept it so I told him I would be getting in touch with the store's general manager to sing his praises. I also said it was heartening to live in a society in which most people are as kind and honest as him. 

Panic over and time for two cans of "Pedigree Amber Ale". God, that tasted good!

5 December 2017

Millhouses

Back in 2010, I wrote about finding a dead woman in The River Sheaf. This was the post and this was the actual location:-
I walked by the place yesterday afternoon. On the day she was pulled from the river, there was more water in it and the undergrowth on the left-hand bank  had not been cut back. To the right you can see the green of the football pitch where my son and his cub scouts team were playing the Millhouses cub scouts that December morning twenty five years back.

Millhouses Park is a long winding park in the map shape of a giant sausage. All along it hugs The River Sheaf and beyond that is the main railway track from Sheffield to Derby. The park is well-used and much loved. There are great facilities for energetic kids, a sensory garden, a bowling club, tennis courts, a small boating lake and an excellent cafe.

I sat in there with a mug of tea and a delicious sausage and plum tomato sandwich. Then I checked out the photographs I had just added to my camera's memory card. Here are three of them:-
Walking by that bend in The River Sheaf brought the woman's death back to me. What a desperate and tragic way to go. Many times I have replayed images of her lifeless body and recalled the icy coldness of her skin. I wouldn't want to go that way.  

And when I came home from Millhouses Park yesterday, all the roads near our house were sealed off by the police. Fifty yards away an elderly woman was killed by a lorry (American: truck). The exact circumstances of her death remain unclear but I wouldn't want to go that way either. May she rest in peace.

4 December 2017

Chants

Duh-duh-duh-duh - Michael Dawson!
Duh-duh-duh-duh - Michael Dawson!

That was the chant that went up from the Hull City end when our veteran defender and club captain Michael Dawson scored an equaliser in the last minute of Saturday's match. We had forced a 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday when all had seemed lost. I was there and I was also singing "Duh-duh-duh-duh - Michael Dawson!"
Can you see me?
I have been supporting Hull City since the early sixties - through almost half of the club's history. In this time I have heard many football chants. An innocent one I remember from the mid-sixties referred to our goalkeeper Ian McKechnie, Russia's legendary keeper Lev Yashin, our brilliant striker Ken Wagstaff and  the maestro Eusebio of Portugal. The chant went like this:-
Aie-aie-aie-aie McKechnie is better than Yashin!
Waggy is better than Eusebio!
And Leeds are in for a thrashin'!

Waggy was a natural goalscorer and a great favourite of the Hull City crowd. During quiet spells in a match a single voice would often call out - "Waggy!" and then the rest of that end of the ground would shout "Oi!". Then it continued, "Waggy! Waggy! Waggy!" as the crowd responded in unison "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

Back in the sixties, the chants were innocent and supportive but as the years passed by many football chants had a deliberate taunting quality about them - goading the opposition supporters. If you scored the first goal you would rub it in with "One-nil! One-nil! One-nil!" to the tune of  "Amazing Grace" or if the opposition fans stopped singing because they were now losing you would chant: "You're not singing any more! You're not singing! You're not singing!" to the tune of "Bread of Heaven"
Michael Dawson - the current club captain
This past year the city of Hull has been Britain's "City of Culture" with a whole raft of arts events including this very day the awarding of the famous Turner Prize for Art at Hull's Ferens Gallery. It is the first time this prestigious awards process has happened anywhere outside London.

Aware of this label, Hull City supporters have been singing, slightly ironically - "We know what we are! We know what we are! City of Culture! We know what we are!" to the chorus tune for "Sloop John B".

My two favourite Hull City songs in recent times have been Elvis's "I Can't Help Falling in Love" which the crowd have adopted as an unofficial club song and the following little ditty that confirms Hull City supporters are fanatical about their club. Even though in our past we have hardly ever won anything of note, we will still support our team through thick and thin:-
"Silverware? We don't care!
We follow Hull City everywhere!"

2 December 2017

Inaccuracy

Research by Louann Brizendine at the University of California found that women speak an average of 20,000 words daily compared to only 7,000 words for men. According to Brizendine this means that on average, women talk nearly three times as much as men.

However, I would like to challenge the efficacy of this often cited research finding. The other day I placed small microphones in every room in our house and I even managed to hide a secret microphone in Shirley's favourite handbag with an ingenious word counting app loaded up on her mobile phone. I think it's called "Rabbit".

The results have now been carefully compiled and I can tell you that on the targeted day my wife spoke 95,204 words while I spoke 375 words. As you can see that is not three times as much as me but a massive 285 times more. I suggest that Professor Brizendine should focus more closely on her research and spend less time chattering to her research assistants.

She has published two books - "The Female Brain" and "The Male Brain". With appendices and the substantial index, the former is in four volumes covering a total of 1250 pages. In contrast "The Male Brain" is a slender publication in large type and is just eleven pages long.

1 December 2017

Meeting

Yesterday, I invited visitors to suggest a blog topic for me. The winning suggestion wafted its way across the Atlantic Ocean from Jennifer in South Carolina. She said, "Tell us about meeting Mrs. Pudding and your romance!"

Now this represents quite a challenge because it all happened thirty eight years ago. In my very fallible memory cells, many of the details have faded away and even the timescale of things is a little hazy... but here we go.
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I returned from the Greek island of Rhodes at the very end of August in the summer of 1979. Previously, I had resided in a shared rental house at Hunters Bar but just before my long summer holiday I had left that place. Now I had nowhere to live and the new teaching year was about to start.

I had a good friend called Kirk. He was a hospital porter and he kindly agreed that I could bring my stuff and temporarily sleep on the floor of his bedsitter - a one room flat in the eaves of a big house at Crookesmoor. Having spent a month sleeping on the beaches of Rhodes it was no problem for me to hunker down in a sleeping bag on Kirk's hard floor.

He put up with me for a month and in that time two very significant things happened. My father died of a heart attack at the age of sixty five and I met the woman who would later become my wife - Shirley.

One night, early in September, just after I had snuggled down into my sleeping bag, I heard some voices on the stairs and then a key in the door. Kirk had come back from the pub with three student nurses. They were coming in for coffee and perhaps he had forgotten that I was even there or that I needed to be up at six thirty ready to travel to my teaching job twelve miles away in the mining village of Dinnington.

The three young nurses came in and were quite surprised to find me lying there like a big blue caterpillar. Coffees were made and drunk and I joined in with the late night conversation that mostly surrounded hospital matters. One of those young women was Shirley and I was immediately attracted to her. She sat on Kirk's bed and our eyes kept connecting. There was electricity right from the start. She was twenty years old and I was twenty five.
The rare Pudding Caterpillar
Dad's funeral happened and afterwards I felt utterly bereft but as luck would have it - one of  the other bedsits in Kirk's house became available and I moved in. That autumn into the early winter of 1979, Kirk and I occasionally met up with that same little gang of student nurses and before very long they invited us to a party at the nurses home where they lived.

I found myself  alone with Shirley at the bottom of the stairs with drinks in hand talking light-heartedly about this and that and gradually it seemed so right that our heads should come closer together, that her left hand should rest on my thigh - that my right hand should rest upon her shoulder - that our mouthes should meet - that we should get lost in a beautiful swirly first kiss from which the rest of the world was excluded. We emerged from it somewhat breathless, both aware that we had crossed an invisible line.

Our first proper date happened the next week when we met up as pre-arranged in "The West End" public house near The Royal Hallamshire Hospital. She wasn't with her friends this time and I wasn't with Kirk or any of the other hospital porters I knew.. There was no hiding place. We found out things about each other and we talked so easily together. There had been no need to be nervous. 

She was only twenty but she seemed so wise and understanding with blue eyes and - excuse me for introducing this slightly coarse note - great bazookas. And below her perfume there was the underlying smell of fresh laundry.

It all felt so right and that next weekend we took the natural next step - she came home to my bedsitter and we slept together for the first time, like peas in a pod. It was the beginning and now neither of us felt alone in this big, bad world. We were together and love had just begun.